Bridge Span 13-15: Who Supports The New Attack on the Internet?

The data is in and there is little room for argument, elected officials who support the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which if enacted would allow states to collect sales tax on purchases from out-of-state retailers that do not have physical locations in their jurisdiction, will have few voters supporting them.  In fact, the issue is a complete loser across the board, except for one glaring exception.

Mercury, a public affairs firm, conducted a poll that was released last month and provides abundant evidence that the American people have heard enough about the national sales tax collection scheme to be placed on merchants that use the Internet and have utterly rejected it, with 57% opposing and only 35% supporting such efforts.

One might believe that since anti-tax conservatives hate this idea they must have driven up the numbers.  It is true that conservatives oppose the idea by a 37.5% margin, but moderates reject it by a 15% margin and even liberals more often reject than accept the idea.  Taken another way, you can pick your favorite ideological or even swing voter category, such as women, young women, moderates, independents or split ticket voters, and find that they all reject the idea.

Of course we expect people to reject having taxes forced upon them, right?  As it turns out, while voters are not fans of a tax it is not the tax that most turns people away – it is the radical expansion of government power.  When the expansion of state tax collection, for example allowing California to reach outside of its state to collect tax and subject residents of Texas to audits, is fully explained those opposing the idea leaps to 70% with less than 23% liking the idea.

Perhaps it is simply a biased poll?  A Gallup poll from June says otherwise, as the results were remarkably consistent with the Mercury poll.

All said, no matter what excuse some might try the bottom line is that American voters oppose the very idea by massive margins, and the more they learn about it the less they like it.  In fact, the GOP feels so strongly that 71% of GOP voters will vote for a candidate who opposed a national sales tax collection mandate for online merchants before they would vote for anyone who supported such an ill-conceived notion.  71%!  Few other issues would rally that base so effectively.

This is an across-the-board rejection of big government on the Internet.

Imagine the sad faces of those 21 GOP Senators who already voted for the legislation, especially if they draw a primary opponent in this election cycle.  Establishment Senators Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and other 18 Senate Republicans can only hope that voters pay little attention to their voting records. 

Supportive politicians can rely on that glaring exception, and still have one group to support them — consumers who have never shopped online (that is 15% of the electorate) slightly prefer the plan by 8%.  So the base of support works out to be 8% of 15%, or 1.2% of the electorate. 

Looks like those who support the “Marketplace Fairness Act” are truly on the side of the 1%.

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